Recently I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with other budding entrepreneurs outside of the digital marketing world and realized the consistent topic of those conversations needed to be shared in a post. That consistent point of discussion was “how do I get started online?” Keeping with the title of the post, this is from scratch, basic, get started info for the brick and mortar business or for anyone wanting to take the leap into the innerwebs to promote their company. This is for the true beginner. I’m an advocate for all businesses, small and large but the small business owner and I share a kindred sense of purpose.
So here we go.
Plan for your website. (Site colors, images, logo, font style, layout, videos, call to action, contact form layout, thank you page layout, who’s going to manage the site, content, number of pages, navigation layout, site map, social icon locations)
I’ve often heard people tell me they have hosting with one provider, domain purchased from another, and sometimes a separate email or no domain specific email provider at all. Now I’m not a “pimp” for GoDaddy.com and they have their detractors but I use them and have never had issues with site outages and the customer service has been great. This is based on my own personal experience with DMA and my almost decade of experience in the digital agency world. The point being, regardless of any real or perceived IT security or outage issues with having all your eggs in one basket, I recommend keeping it simple and using a one stop source for all of the below items. Not only is it simple but it’s only one phone number to call when and if an issue arises. Trust me, you’ll be hella thankful since we all know that any issue that could happen will happen at the busiest time imaginable. Trying to find accesses and phone numbers to all the different service providers your using is going to make matters worse.
- Buy a domain
- Select and/or purchase a mobile responsive site theme(wordpress.org for example)
- Purchase a hosting account
- Download site files to hosting account/This may require assistance from a pro web developer
- Purchase and set up domain specific email account (Godaddy.com has Microsoft office 365 packages for example)
Every step in the process comes with instructions and you can do most or all yourself. As long as you don’t attempt to alter the code, anything you break can be undone, simply not saved, or deleted. In addition, and not too sound trite but Google it. Seriously, literally type in the question you have and you’ll get a plethora of options to assist you. As with all things internet, don’t believe everything you read. Try to verify through multiple sources like forums and/or support pages. But in the instance you’re not comfortable with the processes, you can hire a web developer. A more expensive option but an understandable one. I did a combination of both and couldn’t have done it without that assistance. Give me a call and I’ll introduce you to my web development partners and you guys can take it from there.
Marketing the site. The moment of truth. The site is live. You’re crazy excited! It’s opening day of the business and WOW! The phone is already ringing!! Oh wait, it’s Google calling?? Huh, they do that? Now it’s a review directory? All offering to help me market my business online for as little as $99 per month for SEO or up to $750 per month for a listing on a review site. They say my competitors and all the cool kids are doing it. You say you know some colleagues that do it…..Stop. Hang up the phone and don’t lose any more minutes out of your life. Google doesn’t call people and sell seo services. There’s no such thing as $99 seo. And before you invest $750 per month in any online marketing, least of all a directory listing, take time to properly set up a digital foundation that you can do yourself for free. Claim your Google map listing if you’re a brick and mortar business. Set up personal and company social profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ along with Google+ business pages. There are others of course like Pinterest for example which I like but have a strategy for engaging with that audience that speaks to why they’re there. Offer DIY tips and such, don’t be salesy. Same can be said with all social channels but we’ll get to that. Instagram is one I included, but like Pinterest, lends itself to products and services that can be visualized so keep that in mind. These are suggestions, not hard and fast rules. At least not all of them. Also, be sure to invest some time in ensuring the profiles represent your brand appropriately.
Nice, rolling chassis ready. Now what’s the car/message going to look like? Only you can answer that question my friend, but check this link from Social Media Today for 5 Simple Tips on things to consider. The one piece of advice I try to pass on is be yourself. You’re special, you’re unique and you had the nerve and sheer audacity to think you could start a business. Let that side of yourself shine and have fun and enjoy the opportunities to introduce your brand to the world. That said, even more importantly, know thy audience. Be loyal to them, provide great service, become a part of your digital community and you’ll have the opportunity to engage with them in the real community. Don’t hard sell. Offer tips, run a promotion, update daily, be social.
And last but not least, be patient. Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. They only get ruined overnight. It takes time for people to get to know you and nobody want to be friends with a stage 5 clinger.
Over time not only will your audience grow but you’ll get more comfortable with the process and with any luck at all have some fun along the way.
As someone who enjoys the hot rodding hobby, I always say one of the great things about the hobby is as long as you have a good rolling chassis, you can design the car to look any way you want and it always reflects a part of you. Same can be said of your brand message.
I wish you the best of luck on your journey and as always, feel free to contact me if you need anything.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson